RICK CARTER'S JURASSIC PARK: BEHIND THE SCENES
RICK CARTER'S 'JURASSIC PARK' was an epic project born out of the dire 2020 pandemic lockdown. Author Derrick Davis, the creator of JURASSIC TIME and writer at JURASSIC OUTPOST, had acquired many rare and previously unseen selections of concept art, storyboards, scripts, and other materials related to the original 'Jurassic Park'. One of the most interesting items he acquired was a unique script that had many elements that would eventually be scrapped, but would also shape the final film, and beyond.
The official history behind Jurassic Park's screenwriting process had always included Michael Crichton, Malia Scotch Marmo, and David Koepp. During this time, the film's production designer, Rick Carter, took on a bigger role than normal.
"I was brought onto 'Jurassic Park' about two years before we finally started shooting […] On most shows, the production designer is brought in and handed a script and asked to visualize it. Not so on this one. I was in on many early meetings with Steven where we would break down the scenes in the book and discuss which ones would work best for the film."
In the beginning, Michael Crichton had provided several drafts of the screenplay for his novel before passing the pen to whoever would take a crack at future drafts. Tom Stoppard ('BRAZIL', 'SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE'), an esteemed playwright and screenwriter, was among the choices to take over Jurassic Park's script. Director Steven Spielberg went on to film 'HOOK', as Jurassic Park's production team continued to work.
"While Spielberg was doing 'HOOK', I would go to him with all these different ideas of how to make things work."
Only weeks after Crichton's time with the production had come to an end, Carter decided on a way to deliver these ideas to Spielberg in a unconventional way for a production designer.
"Steven and all of us were having such amazing conversations as we explored where the movie could go, based upon Michael's book. And I knew Michael Crichton through my mother, so I already knew him as a person independent of all of this. So, I knew what he was writing from his book, and the conversations with Steven, and we were developing all sorts of ideas for scenes and context that it was fine for him to do his version.
When it went to the next step, there was Malia Scotch Marmo who was brought on; and I wasn’t part of those meetings. And I knew that many of the things that we were discussing were going through Steven to her and then he was wanting to see what she would bring. But it was making it a little bit hard, as I remember, to know what to coordinate for the art department to focus on. I mean, we knew the main road attack would be there, we had the design of the Spitter, the Spitter would be there, we knew there was a raptor pen; you know, we knew certain things. But there was a whole river extravaganza, there were a lot of things that were in the book that we were still playing out and exploring.
So, I wanted to get something in front of Steven that we could use as our working document. And I started to write sort of memos that would outline scenes and I'd throw images with them, and that kind of thing. But it got to be where it almost was easier to do it as a screenplay form. And then, of course, once I entered into that I started just putting in dialogue and, you know, whatever. Or whatever I took from the book that I thought was still really good."
This led him to craft an entirely new script using much of Crichton's as the backbone.
"After our last script meetings, I began collecting together my notes. I realized that the only way for me to see how the ideas might actually play out in the story was for me to "collage" them into Michael's latest script. Well, one thing led to another and I found myself going through the entire story."
A page of the "3rd Act Outline" from Rick Carter's script.
Out of all the scripts written for Jurassic Park, Carter's version is perhaps the most interesting. It begins to take Crichton's story and shape it into how the film would be finalized. At the same time, it includes an array of unique ideas that would either become extinct or resurrected in future films. Such ideas include: John Hammond wanting to recruit Grant and Sattler to work at the park, the discovery of a raptor den secretly nestled far beyond their pen, trees that are deforested by the giant dinosaurs, and the inclusion of lava fields. There's even an umbrella designed to look like a Spitter that is used as a distraction against a velociraptor; an idea similarly used in Jurassic World.
A "spitter" umbrella from the gift shop, used in defense against a velociraptor.
It's not every day that a production designer writes a screenplay to get his ideas across in order to make the film a success. But Rick Carter was a special production designer. While his version of the script would not end up being used for the film, it wasn't his intent anyway. He simply wanted the best way to further continue the production progress of 'Jurassic Park', and he felt altering the script was the best way to do it.
But what if it had been made? What would it have been like? Would it have felt just as grand, just engaging, and just as memorable? Or would it have had its own unique flavor that no one else could have concocted?
Lava fields that Grant and the kids must traverse through.
After nearly 30 years since it had been written, Derrick Davis had discovered the script and wanted to know the answers to all of those questions. He decided the best way to experience this early version of the film was to bring it to life. This led to him teaming up with another fan of the franchise, music composer Bernard A. Kyer. Derrick presented him with the idea of creating an audio drama experience from the script. He would do this by using concept art, storyboards, and other official artwork to illustrate it; many of which had never been seen before. Bernard took the script and adjusted it to flow in this format, while Derrick went to several fans of 'Jurassic Park' that could perform various roles, including himself as Tim Murphy and John Hammond.
One of those fans suggested by Bernard was artist, filmmaker, and actor Joshua Malone; the voice of Ed Regis, Dr. Alan Grant, and Lex Murphy. He also provided some of the narration for the program's trailer and further consultation throughout. Other cast members include Jurassic Outpost's Samantha Endres as Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Caleb Burnett as Dr. Ian Malcolm; as well as designer Casey Wayne Cook, Jr. as Dr. Henry Wu and others.
Within almost a year's time, Bernard assembled all the character performances while providing the script narration and additional voices, such as Dennis Nedry. The process included mixing a vast library of sound effects, many obtained from the film itself to instill further authenticity. Once that was completed, he composed a fantastic music score to bring it all to life; inspired not only by John Williams but other composers like Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Danny Elfman.
After the audio was completed, Derrick assembled all the artwork he could find to match what was described, while enhancing it for high definition. Despite obtaining rare materials for years, including an entire binder of storyboards from 'Dinosaur Supervisor' Phil Tippett's collection, there was still much more that he needed.
At top: Bernard's audio editing bay. At bottom: Derrick's video editing bay.
One of the people he had been in contact with over the years that had a great source for artwork and storyboards from the film was fellow collector and fan Astríd Vega of The Jurassic Park Collection. Derrick had shared and discussed the Rick Carter script with her long ago, and had even offered her various voice roles in an earlier-proposed version of the audio drama. Tragically, Astríd passed away in May of 2019… almost a year since Derrick had finally met her in-person at Universal Studios Hollywood's Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary Event in May of 2018. Without her collection that she had shared, large portions of the video for this audio drama would not have been possible. The production is dedicated in her memory.
From Jurassic Park's 25th Anniversary Event at Universal Studios Hollywood, 2018. From left to right: Roberto Díaz, Matthew Danczak, Derrick Davis, Astríd Vega, & Brian Belukha.
Despite amassing quite a collection of original and official materials, there was still a need for additional artwork. This task was completed by fellow fan and artist Felipe Humboldt. Felipe created several sketches and scenic paintings based on the script's descriptions. They were used to illustrate characters and moments of the story where no artwork existed or could be found. Without them, it would have been much more difficult to visually depict select scenes to the audience.
Felipe Humboldt's depiction of Dr. Alan Grant wearing a makeshift papoose with a baby raptor; Lex and Tim at his side.
The production was released in February 2021, and was very polished and well-received. However, right before the final video was released, additional artwork was revealed from people who worked on the film through various outlets; including many in better quality than previously available. More would be uncovered throughout the year, thanks to a resurgence of interest in how the film was made. There was so much more material to work with that it became clear the video program had to be updated.
In February 2022, Derrick began re-working the videos with the new materials. Such additions included Art Director John Bell's character designs of Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm that differed greatly in appearance compared to how they would look in the film. It should be noted that character appearances changed frequently during pre-production, creating unavoidable inconsistencies throughout the artwork. However, adding such imagery gave the videos even more authenticity and revealed more insight into the endless production ideas.
John Bell's early art depictions of Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant, John Hammond, Ian Malcolm, Lex Murphy, & Tim Murphy.
During this process, an amazing opportunity took place. Derrick was able to reach out to Rick Carter himself, who had seen the 2021 version of the illustrated audio drama! Rick was delighted with the production, and never thought something like it would have been realized from his script. Their discussions led to a recorded conversation that was then edited into two separate videos: one focusing on his script, the other an hour-long look into his career that delves into 'Jurassic Park', 'AI: Artificial Intelligence', 'Avatar', and other productions. More importantly, Rick explores the core of what he brings to any project he works on with his inspirational wisdom.
Both conversations now appear at the end of the production as supplemental features, perfectly cementing the entire presentation. His wonderful insight into the film's production, his career, and his life were an emotionally fulfilling highlight.
Rick Carter during his conversation with Derrick Davis.
In April 2022, the final version of the program was completed. The end result is a one-of-a-kind experience that was an ultimate labor of love from everyone involved. While the debate can rage forever if this early version of the film would have been better than what we got, it is still fascinating to see it performed in such a dramatic way. It is also great to finally have an engaging way of presenting the art from those who worked on the film, instead of having it locked away or forgotten forever.
Derrick Davis & Bernard A. Kyer would like to thank Rick Carter and everyone in the production for bringing this dream to life and realizing the imaginations of those who worked so hard to create our cherished, classic film: 'JURASSIC PARK'.
An early "raptor pen" concept by John Bell, which was also seen briefly in the background of Jurassic Park in the film; during the lunch scene, projected on a wall.
Learn more about Bernard A. Kyer's process of crafting the sound design and music score for the illustrated audio drama by checking out each of his four in-depth articles from his site below. Be sure to also hear Bernard's album release of his music score for the project!
Now, prepare yourselves for the adventure ahead, as you experience an illustrated audio drama. Featuring the film's original production artwork brought to life with fantastic music, sound effects, and the voice talents of enthusiastic fans.
Article by Derrick Davis. This article includes quotes and information from 'The Making Of Jurassic Park' book, 'Starlog' and 'Cinefantastique' magazines, and additional public and private collections. Originally published in March 2021, with additions made in April 2022.